Game Description: Star Fox Assault brings back the classic space-combat action with an all-new adventure! After saving the Dinosaur Planet in their last adventure, the Star Fox team is sent to face a new menace. But when a standard combat mission takes a strange turn, the team finds themselves fighting on land and on foot, for the first time ever. Help Star Fox survive this new adventure! Incredible graphics make you feel like you're really there, battling for an alien planet.
I am a ten-year-old boy. Yes, I have a college degree and two X chromosomes, but that's just nature's way of fooling "The Man." After a long day of bank-hopping and grocery-shopping, there's nothing I like better than jumping in my spaceship and—pow! pow!—blasting through alien hordes.
Nintendo's Star Fox games have always given me a reason to rejoice (and make machine-gun noises in my throat). Space ace Fox McCloud and crew have been shooting down aliens and flying through shiny rings since the early '90s: the Super Nintendo's Star Fox was designed to show off Argonaut Software's Super FX chip and rendered more polygons than anyone had ever seen on a videogame console. What started as a gimmick became a series, and after Fox took time off to go on a Legend of Zelda-esque adventure, Star Fox: Assault puts him back in the cockpit of his Arwing. As much as I like Star Fox Adventures, it's nice to see team Star Fox patrolling the skies again.
Star Fox: Assault's story is shoot-em-up simple: interstellar cockroaches called aparoids are taking over the universe, and the Star Fox team must take them out. Together with old friends Slippy, Falco and Peppy—and his sometime-girlfriend Krystal—Fox exterminates the aparoid menace, one planet at a time. It's not exactly Final Fantasy, but so what?
Piloting through space isn't all Fox can do. He also attacks enemies on foot with a variety of weapons (e.g. grenades, a sniper rifle, a rocket launcher) and drives around in a space-age tank called the Landmaster. Fox even channels some 1980s Bruce Willis, gunning down enemy craft while standing on a ship's wing.
Nevertheless, this new Star Fox is still a shooter at heart. Tight, seat-of-your pants flying, laser upgrades and Goliath-sized bosses are all part of its old-school charm. They don't make 'em like this anymore, folks—and that's both the game's greatest strength and its biggest weakness.
With all the near-misses, narrow passages and pretty explosions, Star Fox: Assault keeps up the series' wonderfully frenetic pace. But that pace was born in a time before memory cards, when shutting off a game meant starting it over from scratch. The original Star Fox made me complete its missions over and over again. As all that practice improved my skills, it rewarded me with extra continues. But Star Fox: Assault saves my progress after every stage. Granted, the missions are longer than they've been in previous titles, but the main game feels much shorter. This Star Fox comet shoots by too quickly to be savored.
Namco probably knew about this problem, because they've filled the game with so many attainable knickknacks and bonuses that its brevity doesn't matter…almost. Each mission has three levels of difficulty—bronze, silver and gold—and players who complete a mission with a high enough score get a badge. (Badges of a certain color unlock another old-school shoot-em-up, Xevious.) There are invisible flags to find, and finishing a mission with all his crewmates alive earns Fox a gold coin. Oh, yeah—beating the game opens up Survival mode, which lets Star Fox fans play through the game without saving. Thank you, Namco.
The developers also gave the game a Versus mode, one that makes me wish I had gamer friends to play with. Players compete Halo style in split-screen games of cat and mouse, in stages mostly culled from progressing through Story mode. I climbed hills in the sterile chrome city of Corneria, and hid in the prehistoric brush of Sauria (where Fox's friend Tricky the dinosaur lives). In most stages, my opponent and I could even choose how we wanted to fight: should we swoop through space in Arwings? Mow each other down with Landmasters? Or maybe some old-fashioned sneak-and-shoot on foot? We could even use any combination of the three. The only bad thing about Star Fox's multiplayer is the GameCube's lack of online play.
Star Fox: Assault harkens back to the days when videogames required more reflexes than literacy. Yes, it feels thin compared to fifty-hour role-playing games and branching platformers that let players choose their own paths. But it's fast and furious; we even get to fly our own spaceships and yell "Ka-pow!" at no one in particular. What more could a ten-year-old boy want?
The Starfox name has traditionally meant decent (or better) shooter action, and Namco is a strong company whom I usually have great faith in. Although I actually did enjoy StarFox Adventures' foray into third-person action, I was quite glad when it was announced that Assault would be closer to the series' traditional space-borne roots. Unfortunately, (and somewhat contrary to Tera's take on it) the end result of this Nintendo-Namco joint project is a schizophrenic mess not worth the time or money.
The only good bits of the game are the parts I was most looking forward to—the air and space shooting segments. They aren't as good as the series' most memorable moments, but they're serviceable and live up to the precedents set. The controls are tight, it has the same on-rails forward motion action, and the formula still works successfully enough that I found myself pleasantly immersed in scanning the skyline for targets and saving Slippy again...and again...and again.
The rest of the game is junk.
Anytime Fox sets foot on land or pilots the Landmaster tank, it's like Assault suddenly shoots backwards in time to the PSone era, first generation. The character models are rough, the enemy Aparoids are bunches of sharp-edged triangles, and the camera has issues. Putting the ridiculously unrefined graphic presentation aside, the "action" is simplistic and unsatisfying. Mindlessly walking through a series of big boxes passing for buildings while shooting polygons that are passing for bugs is hardly the level of gameplay excellence I expect from the lovechild of a Nintendo franchise and one of Japan's top developers.
Outside of a handful of frustrating sections, this clunky, clanky game can be finished in a day and I can hardly see any reason to go back afterwards to strive for a perfect performance. It's not very enjoyable the first time through. And is Xevious really supposed to be some kind of reward? It's more like a fossilized arcade harlot that keeps getting passed around; it's been included in other games several times, not to mention that it's also out as a standalone on GameBoy.
The multiplayer is a drag, being easily outclassed by any number of other games. Its only appeal is that the furry, colorful art style might be more appealing to younger hands holding a GameCube controller. Weak maps, dumb action—there's really nothing much to talk about here.
In my opinion, the game is embarrassingly uneven and made even worse by coming from such high-profile companies. StarFox has always been overshadowed by Nintendo's other luminaries, and putting out substandard work like Assault isn't going to do anything to change it.
According to the ESRB, this game contains: Fantasy Violence
Parents: Star Fox: Assault is about as violent as a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon. There are spaceships and lasers and explosions. but nothing gory or graphics. this game has no bad language whatsoever. There's some romantic content, but it's not sexual. A friend asks Fox and Krystal if they'll return to his planet on their honeymoon, and Krystal gets hit on by a guy she doesn't like. Still, there's no sexual innuendo. ("How'd you like to be on the wing of my plane, Krystal?" is as tasteless as Star Fox: Assault gets).
Fans of the Star Fox series, rejoice: Assault is a return to old-school Arwing flyin', alien blastin' goodness.
But gamers looking to spend 30 to 70 hours on a game will be disappointed. Star Fox: Assault's story mode is awfully short. Still, there are plenty of opportunities for bragging rights: players can snag trophies, flags, best times...even an extra "bonus" game.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers should have very few problems playing this game. There are no significant auditory cues, and all speech is subtitled.